Women, Sacred Texts, and Religious Organization

Susan Starr Sered

in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Published in print December 1996 | ISBN: 9780195104677
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853267 | DOI:
Women, Sacred Texts, and Religious Organization

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This chapter looks at a few examples that illustrate the lack of centralization which characterizes women's religions. Among the Black Caribs no one tries to compel conformity in beliefs about the dead. A number of the non-centralized women's religions are situated in societies in which men's religions are highly centralized. The clearest examples are the women's religions that coexist with Catholicism or Buddhism. This chapter looks at the Shakers at some length because they present a more complex case than the previous examples. Two women's religions do not fit neatly into the pattern of non-centralized authority: the Okinawan religion and Christian Science. With the exception of Christian Science, women's religions are characterized both by an aversion to centralization and a lack of authoritative sacred texts. At first glance, it would seem that rank and centralization should go hand in hand because both reflect status—conscious, classificatory, and dichotomous thinking. Yet there exist in women's religions highly articulated internal systems of rank co-existing with an almost total lack of centralized authorities.

Keywords: Black Caribs; women; religions; centralization; sacred texts; Christian Science; rank; Shakers; non-centralized authority

Chapter.  6881 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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